We need to talk about leadership in philanthropy

Sufina Ahmad

Negative stereotypes about philanthropy and philanthropic leaders abound. It’s time to demystify our work

The Turks & Caicos Reef Fund received a grant from John Ellerman Foundation to establish a land-based coral nursery. Credit: @ TCRF.

In 2021, as part of my executive MBA programme at Warwick Business School, I used my dissertation to explore the leadership lessons that 28 senior leaders and CEOs working within, or adjacent to, UK-based philanthropic grantmaking institutions might be able to share.  

I am fascinated by what it takes to be an effective leader – much more so since becoming the director (equivalent to CEO) of John Ellerman Foundation in January 2020, a UK-based grantmaker that distributes circa $6.7 million each year in grants for core costs in the arts, social action and the environment. I also wanted to research this topic because so much of the focus on leadership in philanthropy relates to donors like Mackenzie Scott – individuals that are simply not representative of me as a leader or the leaders I work with.

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